My new project: Tact, a simple chat app.

iPhone initial thoughts

January 20, 2007

Just watched the Macworld keynote from last week, where the main talk was about iPhone. Much of what’s to be said has been said already, so I’m not going to be too original here. Other than saying that from a personal perspective, this COULD be the device that I’ve been looking for. I’m increasingly shifting my online life into the Mac space and the iPhone is going to be much more compatible with that than, say, a Windows Mobile-based solution. And the phone is so important to me that I don’t really care that much about the price.

I’m looking forward to seeing the hardware. A lot of stuff has been said about OS X running on that thing and all the bumpy funky scrolling and such… so two things.

First, some people have asked if the screen will be too greasy to use after touching and will the sensor really work as expected. I’m not sure about the greasy part, but you can, like, wash your hands and wipe the surface once in a while? My soon-3-year-old-mobile has been through a lot, including a lot of screen grease, and it’s still perfectly readable and usable, just a few scratches here and there. And regarding the quality of multitouch, you can’t really have a word about this until you’ve used a MacBook or Pro touchpad and it’s two-finger scrolling. It could be more sensitive/precise, but it works miracles as is and rocks the socks off of any other trackpad. So if you haven’t, please do yourself a favour and spend five minutes with it before you speak any further on the matter.

Ambient light sensor rocks too. I really like this feature on my MBP. When ambient light dims, the screen dims too, and keyboard backlight comes on automatically. On a mobile, this is going to be great too, as I often use mobile in dark settings where the standard “daylight” brightness is too bright and it’s a pain to change it. Ironically, this is why my mobile also works great as a flashlight in emergency situations, as you can really light a small dark room with it, for example to find something that you dropped. I hope there will be a control on the iPhone to disable the light sensor/autodim (there is on MBP).

It’s not too hard to imagine all sorts of other funky stuff with the hardware. Like taking the accelerometer (the portrait/landscape detector) and the proximity sensor a bit further and having a Nintendo Wii remote-like capacity to have the phone be fully aware of its 3d orientation and motion vectors. Though I can’t really imagine an application and use for it :) other than, say, theft detector. But similarly as the developers have put the motion sensors on MacBooks and Pros to good/weird use, they could do it on the phone too. Although it has been said that the phone initially won’t be open at all, but let’s give it a while and I won’t really comment much further until then.

It’s great to have a full desktop OS on the phone, although necessarily somewhat downscaled here and there. Hopefully the widget model will be the same as on OS X, so you can almost reuse the same widgets. This would make the phone much more useful, even without access to deploying “full applications”, assuming that the widgets will still have some kind of access to the phone’s “object model”.

I don’t really know too much about US market to comment how bad the Cingular-exclusive deal really is. We can only hope that Steve lives up to his word and iPhone will be available in Europe in Q4 2007 and we’ll see what the deals are like then. Although I’m afraid that like Apple’s many other products like iTunes Music Store, this may not reach bush countries like Estonia too soon. I wouldn’t mind operator exclusivity myself as I’ve had the same mobile operator for the past, what, almost 10 years and I don’t really care about switching as they do what I need for a fair price and service.